For many, the inaugural season of the Oklahoma City Thunder marked a bitter chapter in the history of the 50+ year franchise. Once an institution of the Seattle sports world, the club’s highly controversial move to Oklahoma has left many fans and former players feeling betrayed and cheated of their city’s birthright. Appropriately enough, one of the Sonics most vocal advocates has been former point guard Gary Payton who has openly stated his desire not to have his retired jersey number hung in the Oklahoma City rafters. In a statement made last October to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Payton made it quite clear that his #20 will only be raised if and when the Sonics franchise is resurrected in the Emerald City.
“I didn’t play in Oklahoma, so it wouldn’t be anything that I’m looking forward to because I didn’t play for the Oklahoma Thunder,” he said. “I don’t think that Oklahoma should get the benefits of seeing me raise my number. I think these people here [Seattle fans] are the people who have seen me and made me who I am.”
Payton, who is currently the Sonics all-time points, assists and steals leader, has also expressed his wishes of bringing an NBA franchise back to Seattle. He stated that when the Sonics come back home to Seattle, he wants to be part of
the franchise to ensure the team won’t ever be relocated again.
This particular issue has been a nightmare for many Sonics fans, including myself. As excited as I am to have the NBA in my own backyard, I am not thrilled at the prospect of stealing an honor which rightfully belongs to the city of Seattle. I can’t speak for all Thunder fans but the thought of seeing Shawn Kemp’s #40 or Lenny Wilkins’ #19 raised to the rafters of the Ford Center makes me want to apply a massive amount of pain to team owner Clay Bennett.
I’ve posted a link that has Gary and Shawn talking about the Sonics move to Oklahoma City on Best Damn Sports Show, Period. Enjoy.